I can now talk to you as an adult. You are not a precious little baby any longer.
This is Mother’s Day in Haiti and your mother Fabiola is grieving greatly for you. She just texted me that she wants to play with you…but she knows that she cannot.
As you remember you were born with complex congenital heart disease and were hospitalized four times in Port-au-Prince during the first three months of your life for congestive heart failure and pneumonia. You somehow recovered each time and were discharged to the care of your mom and grandma. And they both fed you all day long one to two ounces of Enfamil at a time with a syringe because you were too weak to take milk like “normal” babies do.
After many attempts we finally found a medical center to accept you and you charmed the people there just as much as you charmed your family and neighborhood friends in Port. People were fascinated with your face and your intelligence and your beauty. During our trip to the States people in the airports would just stare at all 10 pounds of you and marvel and wonder about you. And your nurses in the medical center fell in love with you quickly.
Princess, you went to heart surgery last Wednesday morning with Fabiola carrying you while we walked to the hospital at 6 AM just before the sun came up. Many people in three countries were praying for you that morning. You were indeed a little rock star and you seemed to know that.
And you came through surgery well and went to pediatric CVICU in stable condition. You were monitored with every known baby monitor and given the best care in the world. Your doctor teams that rounded on you and your nurses literally watched every heart beat and breath you took. And your mom was given a slow and in-depth explanation of every monitor and lead and tube placed on or in your tiny body so she could understand what it was all about. All of your medications that you were receiving in the vein were also explained to your mom.
I was asleep when your dad Lolo called me from Haiti at 1:30 AM on Thursday morning. He told me that you were not doing well. I wondered if I was dreaming. I tried to read my cell phone texts from your mom who had sent them to me before your father called. The texts said that they were pumping on your chest and that she needed to be strong but that she could not stay at your crib-side any longer. I wondered if this could really be happening.
I got to your ICU bed as quickly as I could but it was too late. The code was called. The doctors and nurses had done everything humanly possible to “reanime” you. Your chest was being closed. All that could be done to bring you back had already happened. Your life here was over.
Princess, you felt no pain and gave us no warning as your pulmonary blood vessels clamped down all of a sudden and deprived your heart muscle of oxygen and your heart simply slowed down and stopped. The great medical team caring for you could not win the battle against your resistant pulmonary blood vessels that had too much muscle in their walls for the team to overcome. We simply did not get to you soon enough in Haiti to operate your heart and win this war.
I walked down the hall and found Fabiola on the phone. I didn’t want to look at her. But she looked at me and asked me how you were and I said not good. She asked me if you were breathing and I said no. She asked me if you had died and I said yes. Your 23-year-old mom didn’t blink and showed no emotion whatsoever. She simply spoke into the phone and told your dad Lolo “she’s dead” and hung up. However, when your dad called back he was hysterical and I could hear your grandmas wailing in the back ground. I could see and hear and feel the misery and anguish during this dark night in your little home in Haiti.
The attending doctors came and explained things clearly to your mom in soft voices. Fabiola had no questions for them and thanked them for all they had done to try to save you.
During the next hour in the waiting room your mom and dad continued to Facebook Message each other. I don’t think Message was created to hold this amount of sorrow contained in these texts.
At 4 AM your mom told me she was tired and wanted to sleep. So I led her back across the quiet and vacant medical center campus to her room across the street from the hospital. After this I returned to see you one last time, pick up the plaster cast mementos of your hands and feet, your pink blanket, and a little doll the nurses had given you.
At 5 AM I left the hospital. The morning air was clean, all was still, and the eastern sky was becoming a little brighter. As I walked alone I felt hollow…like I had nothing inside of me.
I had your doll in my right hand and I must have accidentally hit a button on it somehow and it started playing music that sounded like choir music. (I didn’t know it played any type of music.) I stopped and tried to turn it off but I couldn’t. So I put in my black knapsack on my back but it continued to play. The second song was “Frere Jacques”, the song we all know from childhood.
Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques, Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous? Sonnez les matines! Sonnez les matines! Ding, daing, dong. Ding, daing, dong.
The song is traditionally translated into English as:
Brother John, Brother John, Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping? Morning bells are ringing! Morning bells are ringing! Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.
I have to say that I was not surprised. Princess, I knew it was you, no longer as a little baby with your knowing grin, but as someone with infinite wisdom in a real good place, and you were assuring me that you were fine. And you were also telling me that you understood that we are humans and forgave us for our very slow and bumbling pace in Haiti trying to save your life. The morning bells are ringing indeed and we need to do better.
Princess, you touched many of us while you were here. Don’t forget your mom and dad and grandmas and your three-year-old adopted brother Prince and any other brothers and sisters who decide to come. They and all the rest of us will always need your help.